In Australia, a child aged 14 or sometimes even younger who has the capacity to consent to treatment can be considered to be a mature minor. In determining if a patient is a mature minor one must consider factors such as their age, understanding of, and the treatment in question. The team at Tego Insurance (Medical Indemnity Insurers Australia) want you to know how to protect yourself and your patient, in situations involving Mature Minors.
Patients who are deemed to be mature minors are entitled to the same level of confidentiality in regards to their health information as an adult patient. This means a parent or guardian does not have a right to know their medical information.
Medical Indemnity Insurance Providers can help, when Breaching Confidentiality is Justified
At Tego Insurance, as a first step, we suggest obtaining all family and next of kin contact details at the beginning of a consultation, so as to avoid inadvertent breach of confidentiality. This will keep you legally in good standing; and will protect you in circumstances where you may be justified in breaching confidentiality and informing a parent or guardian directly. For example: in situations when obtaining the child’s consent is just not possible. Such as when there is an urgent need to treat a previously undiagnosed serious illness.
If a Mature Minor Refuses Treatment
In many situations, a mature minor’s refusal of treatment, even against medical advice, may still be valid, even if it is against what their parent or guardian want.
There can be situations where a Court would overrule a mature minor’s refusal if it is not in their best interests. These situations may include decisions which would lead to a child’s death, or have other very serious consequences.
Disputes Between Parents and Children About Treatment
If a mature minor consents to treatment, but their parent or guardian refuses consent, the child’s consent will generally be sufficient authority to provide treatment.
In certain circumstances, particularly if the treatment involved is serious with long-lasting consequences, involves significant risks or there could be some question around the mature minor’s capacity, it may be appropriate to seek a Court determination on whether treatment should proceed, based on a determination of the child’s “best interests’.
We at Tego Insurance strive to be specialists in the field of healthcare compliance and confidentiality. If you would like more information about your specific circumstances in dealing with a Mature Minor, please contact us! Tego Insurance offers Doctors medical indemnity insurance and Doctors indemnity insurance for healthcare practitioners underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway, a brand globally synonymous with trust and integrity. We have a profound understanding of the Australian healthcare profession and the ever-changing medical industry. It’s this expertise that allows us to provide leading cover with more choice, innovation and greater flexibility.
This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information.
Eric is the CEO of Tego, an insurance agency offering specialist indemnity insurance solutions for the healthcare and life sciences sectors. His qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in business and law, a master’s degree from UNSW in law and management and an MBA from the AGSM.